Devil Theatre: Demonic Possession and Exorcism in English Renaissance Drama, 1558-1642
DS Brewer, 2007 - 220 pages
The so-called "Devil Theatre" is here set against its context of non-dramatic texts on possession and exorcism, providing many new insights.
Representations of demonic possession and exorcism rituals abound in English Renaissance drama, an area which this book seeks to illuminate by comparison with non-dramatic works. The author investigates stage images of possessionin relation to a range of early modern demonological, theological and medical prose texts on the subject, looking specifically at how the theatre responded to these texts. He argues that the stage appropriated debates over demonicpossession to explore the competing roles of the inner life and the body in early modern definitions of selfhood. The theatre also employed the contemporary controversy over possession and exorcism to investigate the politics ofreligion, and to consider the nature of monarchic power. Moreover, because demonic possession cases and exorcism rituals were frequently dismissed by conformist writers as a piece of theatre, they offered an opportunity to reflecton the nature of drama and role-playing.
JAN FRANS VAN DIJKHUIZEN is lecturer and research fellow at the University of Leiden.